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Perfume in the VMS...?

Hi everyone,

One question I've wanted to evaluate for myself is: are the VMS' recipes for medicines or for *perfumes*? My search swiftly lead to the medieval perfume page on Stefan's Florilegium:-


A post there by Rose <rose@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> mentioned the "perfume book of Caterina Sforza". Can anyone throw any light on this - is it fact, fiction, or historical myth? :-/

Also: here are Jennifer Heise's very good herbal pages (some of which are perfume related):-

Tutorials:	http://www.lehigh.edu/~jahb/herbs/herbs.html
Links:		http://www.lehigh.edu/~jahb/herbs/herblinks.html

More history-of-perfume-related links:-


Finally, here's quite a different take on 15th Century men and women from normal:-


If you scroll down to the section on this page marked "FASHION", you'll see:-


Much attention was paid to looking after your appearance in the Renaissance. The use of cosmetics almost became a science, and many were the potions which specialists and perfumiers prepared for vain ladies and elegant gentlemen. Essential elements of female beauty in the time of Lorenzo were white skin, teeth and hands; black eyes, eyelashes, and eyebrows; red lips, cheeks and nails; long hair, body and hands; small mouth, waist and ankles; plus a round, dimpled chin, wide shoulders, swollen breasts, and delicate lineaments. Of course, not all ladies possessed all these prerequisites! To keep in form, and to improve their looks, women resorted to a variety of recipes - which might be referred to as 15th Century 'restoration' - such as those for women who wanted red or black hair, or recipes for women who had red or unsmooth skin. In order to soften hair, you should cut off the head and tail of a lizard, boil it in ordinary oil, and then rub the result into your scalp. To perfume your hair use dried roses, nutmeg, clove-pink, or cardamon dissolved in rose water; as well as juice from coconuts, gladioli, tendrils and grapes, bread crumbs and vinegar. To hide freckles they used almond paste mixed with a powder obtained from irises. The same mixture could be used for the hands. The prescription to lose weight, was bathing in seawater rendered balsamic by the addition of an infusion of so-called 'hot' herbs; laurel, calamint, absinth, and hyssop. More rounded figures rubbed themselves with cow dung dissolved in good wine, and then went to saunas in order to sweat abundantly. After this they had a good bath and went to bed.

For a complete bath, preferibly in autumn, hot water was required. Only more recently did more frequent immersion in hot water become widespread amongst the aristocracy. Bathing was often regarded more as a way to relax rather than as a means to clean yourself; especially after a long journey. Many ladies spent so much time in their bath that they were even served meals whilst in the water. There were also public baths where, for a small payment, it was possible to have a wash. In the morning, in fact, criers would announce when the bath was ready. Saunas were generally frequented by women of ill-repute, who helped make the customers' stay more pleasant.
Thus women in the era of the Medici, knew all the tricks necessary to make themselves more attractive. They shaved off their eyebrows, and then drew a a darker arch. They coloured their eyes and cheeks. With a touch of blue, they highlighted the veins on their forehead, so as to emphasise the transparency of their skin. In order to have soft hands they rubbed them every evening with a paste made of malmsey wine, ambergris, civet and moss. At night they wore gloves for protection.


Based on this single page, perhaps we can start to draw up a list of things that urban women would have wanted herbal potions and lotions for:-

	change of hair colour (red, black)
	smooth skin
	soft hands
	soft hair
	perfume for your hair
	hide freckles
	lose weight

.....while not forgetting the more pharmaceutical end of the market...

	ensure conception
	ensure a male conception (by altering womb pH? suggested by Steve Ekwall)
	ease period pains
	ease morning sickness
	ease hysteria (then thought to arise from the womb)
	terminate pregnancy


Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....